- The Washington Times - Friday, January 21, 2005

RICHMOND (AP) — For the second consecutive year, the House of Delegates has rejected legislation that would allow nonpartisan, nonprofit groups to sell refreshments inside polling places on Election Day.

The House yesterday voted 51-45 to kill Delegate Robert G. Marshall’s bill after Republican Leader H. Morgan Griffith of Salem said voters could be influenced improperly by the presence of candidates’ relatives.

Mr. Griffith cited as an example his mother, a retired teacher who gladly would participate in a civic group’s bake sale at the polls.

“She doesn’t have to say a word, doesn’t have to wear a lapel sticker,” Mr. Griffith said. “Even if they’re against me, they’re going to feel guilty voting against Mrs. Griffith’s son.”

Mr. Marshall, Prince William Republican, promoted the bill largely as a benefit to youth groups selling cookies and other baked goods.

Current law prohibits such activities within 40 feet of a polling place.

“Don’t be intimidated by the Girl Scouts,” Mr. Marshall said. “Pass this bill and don’t look foolish.”

The bill picked up slightly more support this year. The House voted 55-42 to kill a similar measure last year.

The Senate won’t offer a roads, rails and transit package this year and will be selective about which parts it supports in stopgap transportation plans the House and Gov. Mark Warner have offered, Senate leaders said yesterday.

Rather than submit something comparable to the two plans they consider “a pittance” toward the billions of dollars in transportation needs, key senators said they want to study modernizing the state’s means of travel, then offer a comprehensive and perhaps futuristic plan as early as next year.

“Why apply a Band-Aid to a gaping, open wound when we all know in our hearts that only a tourniquet will stop the hemorrhaging?” said Sen. John H. Chichester, Stafford Republican and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

As yesterday’s deadline for filing legislation approached, Mr. Chichester submitted a bill that would confine money from gasoline taxes and other revenue dedicated to transportation off limits to the state’s general fund, which supports such operations as public schools, law-enforcement and aid to the disabled, elderly and indigent. It also would bar general fund use for transportation.

The bill also would direct all the revenue from the automobile insurance premiums tax, estimated at about $380 million for this fiscal year, into the Priority Transportation Fund rather than the one-third share of the tax now diverted to transportation uses.

Mr. Chichester had pondered a more sweeping initiative in the lead-up to a legislative session focusing on upgrading Virginia’s crumbling and over-crowded roads.

With November elections for all 100 House of Delegates seats, Mr. Chichester and other Senate leaders realized there was no support for a massive, expensive and broad transportation overhaul this year.

Mr. Warner proposed an $824 million one-time infusion of cash that includes limited funding for transit improvements, public-private road and transit ventures and pays $256 million owed on highway projects completed years ago.

House Republicans proposed a $938 million package that includes many of Mr. Warner’s proposals and commits $552 million to ongoing yearly transportation spending.

Neither initiative proposes raising any taxes.

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